Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wonder in the Womb - Pt. 2

We are talking about the wonder of human beings in the womb, and the moral question of whether it is right to kill them before they are born. Until recently, there never has been any doubt in the mind of the Christian church that such killing is wrong. Among the earliest sources for Christian thinking outside the New Testament (the beginning of the second century), the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas both forbid abortion.
You shall do no murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not corrupt boys, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not deal in magic, you shall do no sorcery, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born. (Didache 2:2; cf. Epistle of Barnabas 19:5)
Why did the early church, and all succeeding generations of Christians, come to this conclusion—that it is forbidden to take the life of the unborn? We have already seen the root of this conviction: When a human life comes into existence something magnificent has0Ahappened9 4created in the image of God, to live forever.
God Gives, God Takes Away (Job 1:21)
Another pointer for the church was that the Bible says God has sovereign rights over birth and death. When Job’s children were killed by a wind that destroyed their house, Job fell on his face and worshipped God and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The Lord gave—they were conceived and born by God’s act—that’s his prerogative. The Lord took—that’s his prerogative. Not ours. So the church has always shrunk back from intruding on the rights of God. He gives; he takes. Birth and death are his to grant, not ours.
God Forms Persons (Psalm 139:13)
Another pointer was the profound conviction that what is happening in the womb is God’s unique and sacred person-forming work. Psalm 139:13 puts this in terms of God’s very hands-on work in the womb: “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” This is God’ s doing. Not ours.=2 0It is his to make. And his to end. (See also Job 31:13-15.)
A Glimpse into the Womb (Luke 1)
But the pointer for the church that I wanted to focus on today is a glimpse into the womb that we get at several places in the Bible. Let’s look at Luke 1. The situation is that Elizabeth and Mary are both given a child in the womb. Both pregnancies are miraculous. Elizabeth because she is too old, and she had always been barren. She becomes pregnant with John the Baptist. And Mary, because she is a virgin. But the Holy Spirit comes upon her, and she becomes pregnant with Jesus, the Son of God, who would one day die for our sins and rise again.

Verse 24: “After these days [Zechariah’s] wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden.” Then in verse 26, Luke says, “In the sixth month [that is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from Go d to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin.” So when Mary becomes pregnant Elizabeth is about 24 weeks along in her pregnancy.
Nothing Impossible with God
In verses 36-37, the angel says to Mary, to encourage her that her impossible pregnancy really can come true, “And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” So be encouraged, Mary, nothing is too hard for God. Witness the pregnancy of Elizabeth. O how often in these circumstances of pregnancy and infertility we need to be reminded, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” He gives, he takes, he provides in abundance, he sustains in loss.

When the angel had gone, and Mary knew what was happening to her, she made a beeline to Elizabeth. What a consultation this would be: two of the most important and impossible pregnancies in the world. Look at verses 39-44:
In those days Mary arose and w ent with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:39-45)
Now, of course, none of this is being written with abortion in mind. That’s not the point. The point is: How did texts like these shape the way the church thought about the unborn? What were the assumptions here and the implications here?

Notice two things:
1. The Word Baby
First, the word baby=2 0in verses 41 and 44. Verse 41: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Ma ry, the baby leaped in her womb.” Verse 44: “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” That word baby is not a specialized word for the unborn. It has no connotations of “embryo” or “fetus.” It is the ordinary word for baby (Greek brefos). And what makes this crystal clear and significant is the way it’s used in Luke 2:16. Here in Luke 1, it refers to John the Baptist in the womb. In Luke 2, it refers to Jesus in the manger. Luke 2:16: “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby (brefos) lying in a manger.” This is exactly the same word for baby.

What the Christian church has seen in this is that what the persons Jesus and John were outside the womb they were already inside the womb. Jesus was the God-man in Mary’s womb. When the Holy Spirit (according to Luke 1:35) caused Mary to be pregnant, she was not pregnant with anything less than the Son of God. The baby inside was the same as the baby outside.

Today science has only made that easier to believe, not harder. Ultrasound technology has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Yet virtually all abortions happen later in the pregnancy than this date.
2. Treated as a Person
The second thing to notice here in Luke 1 is the way the baby in Elizabeth’s womb responded to Mary who was carrying the Son of God. Verse 41: “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” Then in verse 44, Elizabeth interprets that leap like this: “Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” And Luke says that Elizabeth said this because she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Verses 41-42: “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed . . .” In other word s, the Holy Spirit prompted her to say that this leap of the baby in her womb was a leap of joy.

To increase the significance of that leap even more, consider what an angel said to Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah before his son was conceived. In Luke 1:14-15, the angel said, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” So that leap is not only a leap of joy but a leap of Holy-Spirit-inspired joy.
Only Persons Are Filled with the Spirit
What shall we make of this? Never in the Bible is any animal said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Never does the Bible say that a person’s arm or leg or kidney or skin is filled with the Spirit. Tissue is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Only persons are filled with the Spirit.

What Luke is doing—and he is doing20it as the spokesman of Christ—is treating this child in the womb as a person. He uses the word baby which he later uses for Jesus in the manger. He uses the word joy, which is what persons feel. He uses the phrase “filled with the Spirit” which is what God does to persons. He simply assumes he is dealing with a human person in the womb. And therefore so should we.
Amazed at the Gift of Children
The beginning of human life is a magnificent thing. It is the work of God. It is the forming of a human person in God’s own image who will live forever. Let there be at Bethlehem and beyond, a joyful and grateful reverence for the gift of human life from conception to eternity. Never cease to be amazed at the gift of life—the gift of children.

- John Piper

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wonder in the Womb, Pt. 1

The aim of this is to awaken and intensify your joyful, grateful reverence for the gift of human life from conception to eternity. The beginning of human life is a magnificent thing. There is nothing else like it. Only humans come into being day after day, created in the image of God, and live forever—with God or in hell.

There is no evidence in the Bible or anywhere else that any animals come into being with souls, or that they live after they die. There is no evidence in the Bible or anywhere else that angels are being created today. The only being in all the universe who keeps on originating and then living forever in the image of God is man.

God’s Image After the Fall and Flood
In the beginning, Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Then Genesis 5:5 says, “Adam . . . fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.8 0 This was to show that the image and likeness of God is passed on from generation to generation. It was not just the first pair who were in the image of God.

Then in Genesis 9:6, Noah is warned by God, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Even after all the wickedness, which was punished by the flood, the image of God is retained in man. Damaged, distorted, but stupendously real.

God’s Image Today
Then James 3:9-10 says, “With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” From the first man and woman to each succeeding man and woman down to our own day, when human life begins the image of God begins. Eternal existence begins. That is why I say that the beginning of human life is a magnificent thing.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet y ou have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands.” (Psalms 8:3-6)

The beginning of human life is a magnificent thing—it is the only newly originating life in the universe that is in the image of God. It is the only newly originating life in the universe that lasts forever. O what amazed and happy reverence we should feel for the beginning of every human life!

A New President, Trapped and Blinded
As everyone knows, our new President, over whom we have rejoiced, does not share this reverence for the beginning of human life. He is trapped and blinded by a culture of deceit. On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, he said, “We are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”To which I say . . .

No, Mr. President, you are not protecting women’s health; you are authorizing the destruction of half a million tin y women every year.
No, Mr. President, you are not protecting reproductive freedom; you are authorizing the destruction of freedom for a million helpless people every year.
No, Mr. President, killing our children does not cease to be killing our children no matter how many times you call it a private family matter. Call it what you will, they are dead, and we have killed them. And you, Mr. President, would keep the killing legal.

Some of us wept with joy over the inauguration of the first African-American President. We will pray for you. And may God grant that there arises in your heart an amazed and happy reverence for the beginning of every human life.

- John Piper

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Losing our Expectancy

Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly and nice ‒ then we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the One sitting by the well? Are we expecting Him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life?

Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’

Now, my friend, you must get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and for ever. That is ‘religion’, it is not Christianity. This is Christianity: the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, He meets with yo u and says s omething to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you to a level that you had never conceived could be possible for you.

Do not let the devil persuade you that you have received all you are going to get, still less that you received all you were ever going to receive when you were converted. That has been a popular teaching, even among evangelicals. You get everything at your conversion, it is said, including baptism with the Spirit, and nothing further ever. Oh, do not believe it; it is not true. It is not true to the teaching of the Scriptures, and it is not true in the experience of the saints running down the centuries. There is always this glorious possibility of meeting with Him in a new and a dynamic way.

- D. M. Lloyd-Jones

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In Search of an Honest Athiest

Do honest atheists exist? By honest, I don't mean atheists who pay their taxes and keep their promises and choose not to steal or lie. What I mean in asking the question is whether or not there exists an atheist who honestly believes there is no God.

There are, undoubtedly, many who claim to be atheists. They insist, often loudly and angrily, that there is no God and that religion is the cause of virtually all human pain and suffering. The only ultimate reality, so they say, is matter. Physical substance, whether helium or hormones, whether water or fire, is all there is. Everything can be explained or accounted for in terms of the existence and interaction of material substance of one sort or another. In other words, there is no spiritual realm. There are no angels. There is no immaterial soul in man, and above all, there is no "god" or deity or divinity or supernatural being of any sort.

So I'll ask again: do honest atheists exist? You may think that to be a silly question given the notoriety of late among such prominent professing atheists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, just to name a few. But the operative word here is professing. Yes, many profess to be atheists and make a pretty good living writing books about it or appearing on talk shows or teaching in our universities and colleges. But my question is again whether or not these people, in the depth and quiet of their own hearts, honestly believe there is no God.

I contend they do not. I contend that they are living and speaking in denial of what they know to be true. I contend that they are laboring to persuade themselves of what is indelibly and inescapably inscribed on their hearts: that there is a God and that they are morally accountable to him.
No one has made the case for the non-existence of honest atheists, with greater clarity and force, than John Calvin. "There is within the human mind," said Calvin, "and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. . . . To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty."

Before we turn to Calvin's biblical defense of this truth, let's hear him make the point again. This sense or awareness of divinity which can never be effaced "is engraved upon men's minds" and "is naturally born in all" and "is fixed deep within, as it were in the very marrow." No matter how vocal their denials or sarcastic their laughter or loud their derision, "the worm of conscience, sharper than any cauterizing iron, gnaws away within." Although many "strive with every nerve" to suppress this truth, "it is not a doctrine that must first be learned in school" but one of which "each of us is master from his mother's womb and which nature itself permits no one to forget."

But how do we know that all men know there is a God? On what grounds do we refuse to honor their claim to being atheists? Calvin points us in two directions. Not only has God "sowed in men's minds that seed of religion," what we often refer to as conscience (see Romans 2:12-16), but he has also "revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe. As a consequence, men cannot open their eyes without being compelled to see him." Upon all his works in the natural order of creation "he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and so prominent that even unlettered and stupid folk cannot plead the excuse of ignorance."

I can't emphasize strongly enough that although such knowledge is inescapable, it is inadequate to impart eternal life or the forgiveness of sins. Although countless burning lamps shine for us in the workmanship of the universe, "although they bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path." God's existence and eternal power and divine nature are made "plain" to all men, rendering them "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). But we do not have "eyes" to behold his saving splendor "unless they be illumined by the inner revelation of God through faith."

The fault is not with what God has revealed. There is no shortcoming or defect in his handiwork. The failure is in us. The dullness and stupidity and delusion are wholly ours. The problem isn't that mankind lacks sufficient evidence for the existence of God. The problem isn't that the evidence suffers from lack of clarity or beauty or falls short in its persuasive power.

The problem is that mankind, apart from Christ and his regenerating grace, despises what he sees. The problem is that we hate what we know. The problem isn't that men look upon creation or contemplate the conviction of their own conscience and turn away saying, "It's not enough; proof is lacking; it doesn't add up; God doesn't exist." The problem is that they willfully and selfishly and knowingly loathe the God whom they see and know to exist and would rather indulge their own fleshly lusts and worship their own souls than to honor and give thanks to the God of glory (cf. Romans 1:21-25).

Calvin has read Paul rightly. His conclusions are therefore on the mark. There is no such thing as an honest atheist. There are those aplenty who with their mouths scoff at the notion of God and formulate their arguments to "prove" he does not exist. Perhaps there are even some who from years of willful rebellion and self-induced hardening of heart have anesthetized their souls to God's powerful presence. Perhaps there are some (many?) whom God has simply "given over" (Romans 1:24,26,28) to the deeper cultivation of their self-delusion, some (many?) who have degenerated to such a degree that they've rendered themselves impervious to the clearest and most persuasive of evidence. But in any and every case, they are still "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The plea of ignorance will not suffice at the final bar of judgment.

Do not go in search of an honest atheist. You won't find one. Turn, instead, to the heavens above which "declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1a). Turn, instead, to the sky that "proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1b). "Lift up your eyes on high and see" the trillions and trillions of stars and worship the One who "brings out their host by number" and calls "them all by name," whose power alone sustains them so that "not one is missing" (Isaiah 40:26). And then worship!

And then share these glorious truths with a "professing" atheist and direct him to the revelation of Christ in Scripture and pray that the God who said "Let light shine out of darkness" might shine in his heart "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

- Sam Storms

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Replacing Lies with Truth

For all the negative things we hear or believe, which are often deception and lies coming against our minds, God has an answer of truth for it.

You say, "It's impossible."
God says: "All thing are possible". (Luke 18:27)

You say, "I'm too tired."
God says: "I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28-20)

You say, "Nobody really loves me."
God says: "I love you." (John 3:16 - John 13:34)

You say, "I can't go on."
God says: "My grace is sufficient." (II Cor. 12:9 - Psalm 91:15)

You say, "I can't figure things out."
God says: "I will direct your steps." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say, "I can't do it."
God says: "You can do all things through Christ." (Phil 4:13)

You say, "It's not worth it."
God says: "It will be worth it." (Romans 8:28)

You say, "I can't forgive myself."
God says: "I forgive you." (I John 1:9 - Romans 8:1)

You say, "I can't manage."
God says: "I will supply all your needs." (Phil 4:19)

You say, "I'm afraid."
God says: "I have not given you a spirit of fear." (II Tim. 1:7)

You say, "I'm always worried and frustrated."
God says: "Cast all your cares on me." (I Peter 5:7)

You say, "I don't have enough faith."
God says: "I've given everyone a measure of faith." (Romans 12:3)

You say, "I'm not smart enough."
God says: "I give you wisdom." (I Cor. 1:30)

You say, "I feel all alone.."
God says: "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Heb. 13:5)

It is always a choice of either believing the feelings, emotions, and lies that come against our minds
or believing the truth of what God has said.

Monday, January 26, 2009

All You Can Possibly Need or Desire

Child of God, all that you can possibly need or desire is treasured up in Christ!

You have . . .

no cross that Christ cannot bear,

no sorrow that Christ cannot alleviate,
no corruption that Christ cannot subdue,
no guilt that Christ cannot remove,
no sin that Christ cannot pardon,
no need that Christ cannot supply!

Lift up your heads, you who are poor, needy and discouraged! Lift up your heads, and rejoice that Christ is ALL you need in this valley of tears--All you will need in the deepest sorrow--All you need under the heaviest affliction--All you need in sickness--All you will need in the hour of death--All you will need in the day of judgment.

Indeed, Christ is IN ALL too.

He is in all your salvation.
He is in all your mercies
He is in all your trials.
He is in all your consolations.
He is in all your afflictions.

What more can you want or desire? A Father who loves you as the apple of His eye and a full Savior to whom you can go moment by moment!

"Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find
grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

- Octavius Winslow

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Time is A Jewel Worth More than a World!

Time is not yours to dispose of as you please; it is a glorious talent, which men must be accountable for, as well as any other talent. Of all talents, time is the hardest to improve well. Ah, beloved, do you not need to improve your use of time, who have much work to do in so short a time: your souls to save, a God to honor, a Christ to exalt, a hell to escape, a race to run, a crown to win, temptations to withstand, corruptions to conquer, afflictions to bear, mercies to improve, and your generation to serve!

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:1

- Thomas Brooks
Time-- We will have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but we only have a short, brief window of time to win them.

- Amy Carmichael

From The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in the northeast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc) in the 1740's, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 29. He had been a Christian only 7 years and in the ministry for only 3 years. His life was brief, but he was used of God in a mighty way. The following was written four months before he died. The second paragraph was written by Jonathan Edwards as he edited Brainerd's journal.

“Lord’s day, May 31. [At Northampton] I had little inward sweetness in religion most of the week past; not realizing and beholding spiritually the glory of God, and the blessed Redeemer; from whence always arise my comforts and joys in religion, if I have any at all: and if I cannot so behold the excellencies and perfections of God, as to cause me to rejoice in Him for what He is in Himself. I have no solid foundation for joy. To rejoice, only because I apprehend I have an interest in Christ, and shall be finally saved, is a poor and lesser thing indeed.”

Says Edwards: "This week he consulted Dr. Mather at my house concerning his illness, who plainly told him that there were great evidences of his being in a confirmed consumption [tuberculosis], and that he could give him no encouragement that he should ever recover. But it did not seem to bring the least discomposure in him or make any change as to his cheerfulness and serenity, or the freedom or pleasantness of his conversation."

- Diary of David Brainerd

Friday, January 23, 2009

The President, the Passengers, and the Patience of God

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed at being treated better than we deserve that we must exult in the all-sovereign God—the God of birds' flight and Obama’s rise. When King David pondered how many were God’s “wondrous deeds,” he said, “I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5). That’s the way I feel watching God’s public mercies in the last few days.

Have you considered how unlikely was the crash of USAir flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15—not just the rescue but the crash itself? Picture this: The Airbus A320 is taking off at an angle—maybe 30 degrees. It’s not flying horizontal with the earth. Not only that, it is flying fast—not full speed yet, but perhaps four times as fast as your car would go at top highway speeds.

The geese are flying horizontally with the ground, more or less. They ar e not flying in a cloud like a swarm of bees. They fly level with the ground, often shaped like a V. In view of all that, what are the odds that, traveling at this speed and at this angle, this airplane would intersect with the flight of those geese at that very millisecond which would put a bird not just in one of those engines, but both of them?
Two laser-guided missiles would not have been as amazingly effective as were those geese. It is incredible, statistically speaking. If God governs nature down to the fall (and the flight) of every bird, as Jesus says (Matthew 10:29), then the crash of flight 1549 was designed by God.

Which leads to the landing in the Hudson River—which is just as unlikely. The airbus now has no thrust in either engine. The flight attendants said it was as quiet as a library in the plane without the sound of engines. The plane is now a 77-ton glider with its belly full of fuel. Captain Sullenberger decides to land in the river. Anywhere else would mean one big fireball.

He banks and misses the George Washington Bridge by 900 feet and glides the plane into a perfect belly landing. A few degre es tilt to the front or back or the right or left and the plane would have done cartwheels down the river and broken up. On the water, the flight attendant does not let passengers open the rear door. That would have flooded the cabin too fast. The emergency doors and front doors provide exits for everyone and the plane floats long enough for all of them to climb out. Ferry boats are there almost instantly. The captain walks the aisle twice to make sure everyone is off. Then he leaves. Later the plane sinks.

If God guides geese so precisely, he also guides the captain’s hands. God knew that when he took the plane down, he would also give a spectacular deliverance. So why would he do that? If he means for all to live, why not just skip the crash?

Because he meant to give our nation a parable of his power and mercy the week before a new President takes office. God can take down a plane any time he pleases—and if he does, he wrongs no one. Apart from Christ, none of us deserves anything from G od but judgment. We have belittled him so consistently that he would be perfectly just to take any of us any time in any way he chooses.

But God is longsuffering. He is slow to anger. He withholds wrath every day. This is what we saw in the parable. The crash of Flight 1549 illustrates God’s right and power to judge. The landing of the plane represents God’s mercy. It was God’s call to all the passengers and all their families and all who heard the story to repent and turn to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and receive forgiveness for sin.

I am writing these thoughts on the evening after the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States. I cried twice today. There were two points when I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. Once was when I prayed with some brothers after Obama’s speech and was overcome with the sinfulness of my own racist background. The other was in trying to express my emotion to an African-American brother about what this must mean for him.

As much as I reject Obama’s stance on abortion, I am thankful to the bottom of my soul that an African-American can be President of United States. The enormousness of it all is unspeakable. This is=2 0God’s doing. The geese were God’s doing. The landing of Flight 1549 was God’s doing. And the Obama presidency is God’s doing. “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

And I pray that President Obama has eyes to see. The “miracle on the Hudson” and the “miracle in the White House” are not unrelated. God has been merciful to us as a nation. Our racial sins deserved judgment a thousand times over. God does not owe America anything. We owe him everything. And instead of destruction, he has given us another soft landing. We are not dead at the bottom of the Hudson.

O, that Barack Obama would see the mercies of God and look to the One whose blood bought everlasting life for all who trust him. The parables of God’s mercy are everywhere. The point of them is this: God is a just and patient Ruler, and Jesus Christ is a great Savior. Turn. Turn. Turn, O President of the United States and passengers of this planet.

Full of thanks for all God’s mercies

- John Piper

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Christ by His Death

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree." 1 Peter 2:24

Certainly the whole punishment of body and soul which was due us, Christ our Redeemer suffered. Our blessed Savior bore all the sins of His people. He suffered the whole punishment which was due unto us, which we would have endured, if He had not atoned for our sins. He felt the anguish of soul, and horror of God's wrath and in soul, experienced the torments of hell for us, sustained them and vanquished them!

All the pains, torments, curse, and wrath which were due to the elect fell on Christ, until divine justice was fully satisfied. Though Christ did not suffer eternal death for sinners, yet He suffered that which was equivalent, and therefore the justice of God is wholly appeased by His death. Christ's infinite excellency and glory made His short sufferings to be of infinite worth, and equivalent to our everlasting sufferings.

Jesus suffered that which was necessary for our redemption, namely that torment of hell which we had deserved, and which the justice of God required that He should endure for our redemption. He endured that bitter pain which we deserved to suffer eternally.

Christ by His death . . .

satisfied divine justice,
bore and pacified divine wrath,
brought in an everlasting righteousness, and
accomplished the eternal salvation of His people!

- Thomas Brooks

These Things Christians Believe

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

(1) We hold and teach that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, and it alone is able to make a person wise unto salvation.

(2) We hold and teach that we are accounted righteous before God only because of the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ through faith, and not for our own works and deserving. We maintain that in the matter of our justification, our own goodness and holiness have nothing whatever to do with it.

(3) We hold and teach that good works, which follow after justification, spring necessarily out of a true and living faith. We maintain that a living faith may be as evidently discerned by the good works which spring from it, as a tree is discerned by its fruit; and that, consequently, the one in whom no good works and holiness can be seen is not yet a converted person.

(4) We hold and teach that repentance, faith, holiness of heart and life, justification, conversion, union with Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are the primary and principal things in true religion. We maintain that other points of doctrine, however important and valuable in their due place, are by comparison, things of secondary importance.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Tim. 4:2

- J. C. Ryle

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Fruit of Salvation

The work of the Holy Spirit, though mysterious, will always be known by the fruits He produces in the character and conduct of those in whom He dwells. The presence of the Spirit is like light which can be seen, fire which can be felt, and wind which causes noticeable results.

Where there are no fruits of the Spirit, there is no presence of the Spirit. Those fruits are always the same: conviction of sin, true repentance, living faith in Christ, and holiness of heart and life.

I am afraid there are multitudes of professing Christians throughout the land who really know nothing about the Holy Spirit. They seem to think that as baptized members of a church denomination, they possess the Spirit. But of the work of the Spirit on their own individual hearts--conversion, repentance, and faith--they know nothing at all. They are spiritually asleep and dead, and unless they awake, they are in great danger!

- J. C. Ryle

The Scriptures are Sufficient

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness--so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scriptures are sufficient to inform the ignorant, to confute the erroneous, to reform the wicked, and to guide and direct, support and comfort the godly.

Here a lamb may wade and here an elephant may swim!

Here is milk for babes and meat for strong men!

Here is comfort for the afflicted, and support for the tempted, and ease for the troubled, and light for the clouded, and enlargement for the straitened .

Oh, how full of light, how full of life, how full of love, how full of sweetness, how full of goodness, how full of righteousness, how full of holiness is every chapter, and every verse in every chapter, yes, and every line in every verse!

No human writings are comparable to Scripture:

1. for antiquity
2. for rarity
3. for variety
4. for brevity
5. for plainness
6. for harmony
7. for verity

All which should greatly encourage Christians to a serious perusal of them. "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97

- Thomas Brooks

The last words A. W. Pink ever said before he died: "The Scriptures explain themselves."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Which Comes First-- Repentance or Faith?

This question was posed to me this week by a dear brother:

"In Mark 1:15 it says "repent and believe the gospel." My question is, after the heart is converted by the grace of God, does a man repent and then believe, believe which leads to repentance, repent and believe simultaneously, or it doesn't matter? I know both aspects of repentance and believing are irreducible minimums in true salvation, but can we conclude from scripture if one comes before the other?"

My reply:

It is a great question really to make us think more deeply about such an important matter.

It seems that the New Testament would say that, while the call of the gospel sets the order as repentance and then faith ('repent and believe'), it seems that the two are not necessarily always seen in that order in the New Testament, the reason being that they are joined graces which happen in a sinner's heart as Christ is drawing and saving them.

Someone said (I forget who) that repentance and faith are like Siamese twins- they are joined together, but are distinct and different graces; I think it was Calvin who said that repentance is believing repentance and faith is repentant faith.

Any time a sinner is being drawn by the Holy Spirit to the Saviour, when he or she comes to Christ, they are obviously turning away from sin at the exact time that they are trusting the Lord; so repentance and faith in conversion really happen at the same time; a person is having a repentant heart and attitude as he is coming to trust Christ.

The Holy Spirit regenerates, then and only then, will repentance and faith result; no repentance happens that does not contained saving faith and no saving faith is occurring unless there is repentance is involved.

These two aspects of salvation (repentance and faith) are primarily viewed by the term 'conversion'; they are both saving graces given by God to the sinner simultaneously. But either one can evidence itself outwardly in the sinner's response first-- what I mean is that one person evidences deep repentance and yet faith may not outwardly seem to be present very much; then another person may be greatly rejoicing in and embracing Christ in a way that is strong, yet repentance is not the main reality being outwardly shown; but its there none the less.

I think the question of their order (which comes first?) has more to do with the call of the gospel (the preached message); the apostles and Jesus put repentance first; Jesus did, John Baptist did, Paul did and Peter did. New Testament preaching consistently said, "Repent and believe." Paul said to the jailer in Acts 16, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." But he was seeing in the jailer a man who was already evidencing repentance, thus his primary directive was faith, pointing him to Christ.

The essence of what I am saying is that a sinner cannot truly repent without at the same time experiencing saving faith, and likewise, any true faith in Christ has within it a repentant attitude and heart. That is a simple answer but I hope it helps.

John Murray's book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, is excellent on this subject, as is Sinclair Ferguson's The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction; both books are well worth the read.

Let me know if you desire to talk more about the above subject.

- Mack

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Modern Religion

At St. John's Church in Horsham, West Sussex, England, Christianity has long withered in the face of blatant, feel-good unbelief.

An Anglican minister removed a sculpture of the crucifixion from the front of his church because it was a 'horrifying depiction of pain and suffering' that was scaring off worshipers.

The minister, Ewen Souter, said the traditional Christian symbol was frightening children and that it would be replaced with a modern, stainless steel cross, saying "We wouldn't want to remind anyone about Christ suffering actual pain on our behalf."

Souter elaborates: "We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross."

So much for the true cross; religious unconverted people do this all the time-- replace the truth with what is false, simply because they want to feel better religiously.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

American Christendom a Business

A Bible teacher gave a summary of Christian history's movement in a class to beginning students:

"Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it then came to America and became an enterprise; an enterprise--that's a business."

After a few moments a young lady, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand, asking a simple question, "A business? But isn't it supposed to be a body?"

When the teacher said, "Yes," the girl continued, "But when a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?"

The answer is yes; American professing Christendom is a prostitute, and any professing Christian, church, or organization that uses the message or the body for financial gain is guilty and will prove to be false.

But not the true church of Jesus Christ, who is continually becoming a holy bride, preparing for her Bridegroom. Don't confuse the two- the true body of Jesus Christ is not Christendom.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is Jesus Enough?

I’ll never forget when I was in a big, serious reformed conference in Detroit a while back, and we all went out to eat at some kind of Cheetos or Charlies or something; we’re sitting down and I had a Bible open, and we’re all talking, you know all these serious theologians, and all of a sudden our waiter shows up. Now he’s one of those guys, you know, his hair is kind of blonde, flipping out everywhere, he’s got like 600 bracelets on his arm, and he walks up and he goes “Dude!”.

“well, yes”

He goes “Dude! You got a Bible!”

I go “yes”

He goes “Man, I found Jesus last month!”

I said “Really”

HeE2s goes “Yeah, I found Jesus! And Jesus! Jesus, I found Jesus!”

And I said “Man, that’s something, that’s something.”

And I knew what everyone of those stinking reformed theologians were thinking. This is what they were thinking: “You are no more saved than a goose in a hail storm. He’s lost, he’s just another American, you know, result of American Christianity,”

I looked at them and I said “You know, it’s a lot better to have it and not know what to call it, than to know what to call it and not have it.”

- Paul Washer

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jesus The Faithful One

Jesus The Faithful One

The confidence we have,
The trust we hold,
The hope we carry,
Rest in His faithfulness.

Every promise He has made
He purposes to fulfill;
He has the authority
To accomplish all He has spoken.

His power is limitless,
His character changeless,
His love endless.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christless People are going to an eternal Hell

"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn--and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" Matthew 3:12

"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matthew 13:42

"Then He will say to those on the left--Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell--where the fire never goes out!" Mark 9:43

"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" Luke 3:17

"I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24

"Those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire!" Jude 1:7

To help our conception of what hell is, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven or into the midst of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire, as the heat is so much greater. Imagine also, that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full as a bright coal of fire, all the while with full senses.

What horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! If it were to be measured by the hour-glass, how long would the glass seem to be running! And after you had endured it for one minute, how unbearable would it be to you to think that you had yet to endure the other fourteen minutes!

But what would be the effect on your soul if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect if you knew you must endure it for a whole year! And how vastly greater still if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years!

O then, how would your heart sink, if you knew that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end, that after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than it ever was; and that you would never, never be delivered!

But the sinner's torment in hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents! How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable, must the sinking of the soul be in such a case!

"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15

Such, in brief, is the portion awaiting the lost-- eternal separation from the Source of all goodness; everlasting punishment; torment of soul and body; endless existence in the lake of fire, in association with the vilest of the vile; every ray of hope excluded; utterly crushed and overwhelmed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God!

People we know, people we care about and people who live around us, in reality, are going to experience such an eternal reality for certain unless they come to know Christ savingly.

- A. W. Pink
- Mack T.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Christ Desired

Christ Desired

Is it any wonder that Christ is so undesired, when He is so unknown to many? - William Seeker (1660)

When Christ is truly revealed in His beauty and glory to a human heart, He is altogether desirable and irresistible.

- Mack T.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"I Love Jesus Christ"

One of the most memorable moments of my seminary days was during the school year 1968-69 at Fuller Seminary on the third level of the classroom building just after a class on systematic theology. A group of us were huddled around James Morgan, the young theology teacher who was saying something about the engagement of Christians in social justice. I don’t remember what I said, but he looked me right in the eye and said, “John, I love Jesus Christ.”

It was like a thunderclap in my heart. A strong, intelligent, mature, socially engaged man had just said out loud in front of a half dozen men, “I love Jesus Christ.” He was not preaching. He was not pronouncing on any issue. He was not singing in church. He was not trying to get a job. He was not being recorded. He was telling me that he loved Jesus.

The echo of that thunderclap is still sounding in my heart. That was 40 years ago! There are a thousand things I don’t remember about those days in seminary. But t hat afternoon remains unforgettable. And all he said was, “John,=2 0I love Jesus Christ.”

James Morgan died a year later of stomach cancer, leaving a wife and four small children. His chief legacy in my life was one statement on an afternoon in Pasadena. “I love Jesus Christ.”

Loving Jesus is natural and necessary for the children of God. It’s natural because it’s part of our nature as children of God. “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God” (John 8:42). The children of God have the natural disposition to love his Son.

Loving Jesus is also necessary because Paul says that if you don’t love Jesus, you will be cursed: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Loving Jesus is an essential (not optional) mark of being a beneficiary of God’s grace. “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with lo ve incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24). If you hold fast to the love of anything above Jesus, you are not his disciple: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,0Aand whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

Loving Jesus is not the same as obeying all of Jesus’ commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). That means that obedience to the commandments is the result of loving Jesus, not the same as loving Jesus. Love is something invisible and inside. It is the root that produces the visible fruit of loving others.

So here at the beginning of 2009, I join James Morgan in saying, “I love Jesus Christ.” And as I say it, I want to make clear what I mean:
I admire Jesus Christ more than any other human or angelic being.
I enjoy his ways and his words more than I enjoy the ways and words of anyone else.
I want his approval more than I want the approval of anyone else.
I want to be with him more than I want to be with anyone else.
I feel more grateful< /em> to him for what he has done for me than I do to anyone else.

I trust his words more fully than I trust what anyone else says.
I am more glad in his exaltation than in the exaltation of anyone else, including me.
Would you pray with me that in 2009 we would love Jesus Christ more than we ever have? And may our Lord Jesus grant that from time to time we would deliver quietly and naturally a thunderclap into the hearts of others with the simple words, “I love Jesus Christ.”

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

- John Piper

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ministry Mistakes

"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Lk. 10:38-42).


Three mistakes Martha makes -- mistakes we all can make -- in her ministry to Christ: First, her work for Christ overshadowed her devotion to Christ. The number one hindrance in the ministry many times is the ministry itself. What Martha did and what the moneychangers did (Jn. 2:16) -- albeit from vastly different motives, incurred a similar ministerial rebuke. Our greatest duty requires our greatest devotion -- not our greatest service. Great accomplishments come from resting and waiting -- something simple, but not simplistic (2 Cor. 11:3-4).

Second, a common ministry doesn't equate to a common burden. Mary and Martha were both sisters, sharing the same house, the same social status, the same income stream -- just not the same burdens when it came to spiritual realities. While every servant shares a common faithfulness (Matt. 25:21,23; 1 Cor. 4:2), not every servant shares common talents (Matt. 25:14ff). Expect someone else to feel what only you are responsible for, and the end result will be murmuring and complaining and even resentment toward the Lord. It would have been easy for those laboring in the field all day to assume that it was someone else's turn to work when they came in (Lk. 17:7-8), or to receive higher wages when compared to others who started late (Matt. 20:10-11). Both assumed similar ministries meant similar work loads or rewards from the Master.

Lastly, strength for ministry comes from our labors, not as a result of our labors. Martha labored in things that bothered, worried and distracted her -- vices that rob of strength in ministry. If the Master gives the work, He will certainly give the satisfaction. You can't labor in the flesh hoping for a spiritual outcome (Gal. 3:3). You feed others only with bread you yourself have labored to eat and enjoy.

So may the Lord keep your eye single as you labor among those who may fold their arms in laziness (Matt. 25:26), or among those given far greater talents of Christ's rich mercies and fellowship. Your joy and your ministry is in Him and Him alone -- a lesson Martha and Peter (Jn. 21:21-22) learned the hard way, and the moneychangers never learned at all.

- Mark Lacour

Monday, January 5, 2009

British Ministry from Wales to Scotland

(This is a report from our friend, Geoff Thomas, who has pastored in Wales for 40 years at the same church; we love this church dearly and the believers there; thought you would enjoy reading this dear British pastor's report of his visit to Scotland-- it is alittle long, but really enjoyable if you have interest in Great Britain-- Mack T.)

From Geoff Thomas, pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, Wales

I have just got back from Scotland and here is my report

An invitation to a wedding is always delightful, but to get one taking place just before Christmas it is especially welcome. There is light and sparkle and chill in the air, the frost is on the grass while the church and hotel are warm, the latter with log fires. So I barely hesitated in canceling my annual visit to the Westminster Conference. I forfeited hearing, among others, Iain Murray ("What Can We Learn from the Puritans?"), Bob Godfrey ("the place of tradition") and John J. Murray ("the recent rediscovery of the Reformed Faith through literature"). The occasion itself, with 200 men gathering there and talking together publicly and privately, is larger than the sum of the individual papers and the official discussions, but unfortunately this year it had to be missed and my son-in-law Gary Brady had to field the question, "Where is your father-in-law?" Nice to be missed, but I had to be at St Albans the Friday 12th December at 10.30 for the wedding of Andrew and Serena.

Spicer Street Evangelical Church, St Albans, has grown phenomenally since it opened about forty years ago and now it has two morning services. The wedding was beautifully simple with grand hymns; Serena had to take some deep breaths to get through her vows without a break in her voice, and I preached on 'God is love.' The families and friends of the bride and groom, many of whom never attend a place of worship, listened well. Serena was a student for three years in Aberystwyth and very supportive. Students don't know how much their discipleship means to a pastor. One final year student has in fact fallen away this term, and that's a grief to all to whom that student is known. But back to this wedding where a cellist and violinist played Beethoven duets while the wedding register and marriage certificate were being signed. We were able to stroll to the hotel through old St Albans and there they played again while we drank the hot mulled wine which warmed us on this winter' s day before the meal.

Saturday morning my son-in-law, Gary Brady, and I were up at 6.30 and he drove me to Terminal 5 at Heathrow to fly to the Scottish Hebridean Islands. What an adventure, going to the far north of Scotland in the deep mid-winter. It took an hour's flight to Edinburgh with the help of a tail wind; an hour's stopover, and then the 45 minute flight up the backbone of Scotland and across to the Western Isles, touching down 20 minutes early in Stornoway. Malcolm Maclean met me and drove me the hour across the Isle of Lewis to the Isle of Harris and into the village of Scalpay. The village is on the Isle of Harris while the island of Scalpay is attached by a new bridge. The day was absolutely calm and so the numerous loughs were like mirrors and the snow-capped mountains were reflected in the depths of the lake. It was breathtaking. The Free Church Manse is on the side of a hill overlooking a sea inlet; a large boat was moored across the valley on the island side next to the fish factory which has recently closed. In the sea are sea otters, seals and salmon. Men fish from the bridge, which was built linking Scalpay island over the inlet to Harris about ten years ago. It was in fact built in Norway and brought across the North Sea on a boat and exactly settled into its allocated place, a very impressive achievement for the islanders many of whom were sceptical. It was opened by Tony Blair. It immediately rendered the ferry defunct. But what leads people onto the island more easily also leads many off it. Once 600 people lived on the island but now only about a third of that number are inhabitants. They were mostly Gaelic speaking. All six elders speak Gaelic with just two of them feeling fluent enough to pray in English. There is the inevitable linguistic and economic decline of these places on the west coast of the UK which we in Aberystwyth share. As we drove back to the Manse on Saturday night at 8.30 we saw in the car headlights four local lads who had taken their regular walk to the bridge, crossed it and at that moment were returning home. It is the most significant architectural piece on Harris. There are no cafes and just one or two shops in Scalpay. You walk to the bridge and back home.

It was the Scalpay Free Church communion season which they hold four times a year, two major communions with extra meetings starting Thursday evening and ending with a Monday night meeting, but this was an abbreviated series of meetings of Saturday and Sunday, but there was no abbreviation to the Sunday morning 12 noon communion service. We sat to sing the metrical psalms, and we stood for prayer. I preached the sermon and then we sang; I fenced the Table; we sang; I gave a word of invitation and welcome; the common cup and bread were distributed to the people sitting at the designated 'Table' as the first seven pews with white cloth on them is referred to; I gave a word of exhortation and we sang the closing psalm. It was a service of an hour and 45 minutes. I preached again at 6 p.m. which was followed by a prayer meeting and the two elders who prayed moved me deeply by their intercessions. Then we turned in at a nearby house for refreshments and I spoke about my pilgrimage and answered questions. They are blessed days and I often wonder about what I can do to emphasize or deepen our communion services, and I do have one or two ideas.

Monday I spent time at four different manses of three different confessional Presbyterian denominations. First we drove to the second community on the Isle of Harris, Leverburgh. This used to be named 'Obbe' but in December 1920 it was renamed Leverburgh after the soap tycoon Lord Leverhulme who was generous towards it, setting up a fish processing site and widening the harbour. But when he died five years later this source of support finished too and the 33,000 acres were sold in 1925 for nine hundred pounds. Today the population is 200 people; there we spent an hour with the Free Presbyterian minister, Kenneth Macleod who edits the Free Presbyterian Magazine which I enjoy and whose editorials and book reviews I put on the Banner of Truth website. A relatively young man, he has been a widower for a decade and he showed me a photograph of his late wife as we were leaving.

Then Malcolm drove me almost the length of the Hebrides, well, from south Harris to north Lewis (the large island of Uist does lie to the south-west), from Leverburgh north-west to Back to spend a couple of hours in the Free Church manse with Iain D. Campbell. They are building a splendid addition to their church, a large hall which they need in a unique way because of their growth, and the two languages in which the church worships. Iain reminds me of Joel Beeke in his piety, in writing prodigiously, in preaching powerfully and the way they both take the gospel everywhere. They shared a conference together for the first time earlier this year. I would love to have been listening to them on that occasion and sense the dynamics of the relationship, but both men are going to be in Geneva in July at the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (of which I have heard nothing since July). I had supper with the Campbells and then he took me to the airport from whence I flew the 35 minutes across the Minch to Inverness ('the Queen of the Highlands') on mainland Scotland. I was met by Associate Presbyterian minister Calum MacInnes and thus ended the day at the fourth manse of the third denomination. It has been sixteen years since I stayed here with them at their communion season and I remember we had gone to the Free North after our own evening service for its centenary service. Kenny Macdonald came down from Rosskeen to preach. His daughter, Alison, had disappeared on a vacation in northern India. Calum has a cousin who is the father of twenty children, beautiful Christian children, many of them married. They worship with the Free Presbyterians.

On Tuesday evening Calum drove me to Dingwall and I spoke in the hall of Dingwall Free Church opposite the Highland Theological Academy. Forty or fifty gathered, some families, younger men and pastors. I preached on the God of hope filling us with joy and peace as we trust in him, and I thought there was a divine blessing on the occasion. After the meeting was over they took me into the auditorium which has been unchanged since the days when Dr. John Kennedy was the pastor and Spurgeon preached there. They have gutted the downstairs, removed all the pews, many going to a church in Romania, carpeting the whole and bringing in 120 chairs, making a new pulpit in the front and two screens lit from the back for the Powerpoint hymns and sermon outlines. There are that number who attend on Sunday mornings and 80 in the evenings, and Angus, the pastor, has had new people joining the church at every communion season. There were some objections to these changes but the redecoration of the whole building in its original colours, and the good taste in which the work has done, and the fact that money has come in to pay the whole cost of almost 300,000 pounds for these renovations has silenced virtually everyone. The gallery which seats 600 has not been changed.

On Wednesday morning I was picked up by William Mackenzie who heads Christian Focus publications and taken to his house for coffee which his wife, a prolific children's writer, prepared. Christian Focus produce 120 new copies a year and some of them are enormous books such as Douglas Kelly's new first volume of his three volumed Systematic Theology. William wanted to know what works of mine he could print and I floundered (I have to offer anything to the Banner first) suggesting lamely the sermons on 2 Corinthians as so few sermons on that book are in print (I know of none). He was more interested in gathering together my children's talks, but none of those has been recorded, and also they are just written on scraps of paper. Lot of work; no time. "Send them to us," he pleaded. He told me of his contacts with an array of men, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Dick Lucas and Richard Bewes. He knows them intimately and he and his wife speak on raising children in a Christian way in conferences in some of their churches. He would like to supply a pile of books for the next Eccentrics conference in Cardiff. He gave me half a dozen books including Steve Levy's volume on an introduction to the New Testament and the collected writings of Alan Stibbs.

He took me to the King's View Christian Centre (as the Associate Presbyterian church is known) and I spoke to 65 older people at their luncheon club where half a dozen people with learning difficulties joined us. What a lunch! It was a three course Christmas dinner followed by coffee and Christmas cake and chocolates. We sang two carols with an organ and then I sang to them in Welsh 'O Iesu Mawr' to Llef. Then I preached evangelistically and simply for 20 minutes. During and after the meal I spoke to a number of people, especially to Ross a young father soon to enter the ministry who is a close friend of Ali Johnson, a friend of Fflur's in Cardiff whose little boy Padi has a brain tumour, of which family Fflur often speaks so admiringly and tenderly. Strangely enough this very day Padi was being taken with other children with cancer from south Wales to 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister and afterwards to decorate the Christmas Tree in Highgrove. There was a report of the visit on Welsh television news.

After the meal I spoke to an old friend Donald who used to arrange the transport for the royal family in their journeys around the Highlands and who has got to know the Princess Royal, Princess Ann, closely and has given her many Bibles. "If she would only begin to read them," he said longingly. He told me of the extraordinary conversion of a drunkard and drug addict in Inverness who died at 50, but he could not remember telling me of the scrap metal trader, a tinker, who had a similar dramatic conversion 16 years ago. You would think that such a transformation no one could ever forget. I would never forget it. Are such conversions so commonplace in Inverness? It was a happy hour and a privilege to speak to them that lunchtime.

There is the Campbell family nearby, Free Presbyterians, and they have twenty children. Isn't that amazing? Beautiful children. When one of the last ones was born the doctor commented to the father that he had a very large family. "We believe in being fruitful and multiplying and replenishing and filling the earth," replied the Mr Campbell. "Yes, but not you alone," protested the doctor. The family include David Campbell, some of whose reviews I have put on the Banner website. His older brother William is the General Treasurer of the Free Presbyterians, and a sister works for the Banner of Truth.

In the evening about 80 folk gathered in the King's View Christian Centre and I spoke to them on the Welsh Revival of 1904. I didn't want it to be 'revivals long ago and far away' to make them discouraged and I could give that event an immediacy through family connections. It was a happy time in this A.P. church and I promised to go back in 2010 for a communion season.

The journey home was long; the plane to Edinburgh; the plane to Heathrow where Eleri was waiting for me. I took her to the Welsh school for the afternoon and the evening Christmas concert and then drove home to Aberystwyth getting here at 7.20. Six whole days away, but I believe it was a useful time, certainly for myself. That night an alcoholic friend phoned from Cornwall. He used to be in the congregation and I spoke to him warmly, but then he called me back again at half past midnight waking me up, and then again at 2.30 a.m. when I did not get back to sleep and again at 8 a.m. I missed the Friday 7 a.m. prayer meeting for revival because of this sleeplessness, but Iola got up and went. I had thought as my former congregation member of ten years ago was talking to me, by the slowness of his speech, that he was hitting the bottle. Christmas is a bad time for lonely people with drinking problems.

Friday night was carol singing for the shut-ins and the tiny ones sang 'Away in a Manger' in the morning service. We were at the traditional lowest congregation of the year on Sunday night, but I loved preaching on Isaiah 11, the shoot of Jesse and the fullness of the Spirit resting upon him, and his reign of peace, the lion and lamb lying down together. It passes all understanding. When you preach in the Spirit you forget how many or how few are listening to you.

On Tuesday (Christmas Eve's eve) the first of the girls arrived at 11 p.m., Catrin with her Ian and their 14 month son Osian. What a delight to have this inquisitive little boy crawling rapidly everywhere. They were joined by our daughter Fflur and family on Saturday, and late Sunday night after their service our first daughter Eleri and family arrived after their evening service. 17 of us slept everywhere for the next few days until they begin to drift off to other family members. Church members came to eat with us Christmas Day and the next days. The turkey was picked up from the butcher shop Wednesday morning. There were soccer games on Boxing Day and Monday the 29th, some solitary moments of reading snatched here and there . . .and then Consequences, Pictionaryand Twenty Questions . . . family games. The nine grandchildren entertain one another and the baby is handed from one to another---Golden days.

- Geoff Thomas

Bad Preachers

Those preachers who tell sinners that they may be saved without forsaking their idols, without repenting, and without surrendering to the Lordship of Christ are as wrong and dangerous as others who insist that salvation is by works, and that heaven must be earned by our own efforts!

- A. W. Pink

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Prayers from the 19th Century Just as Needed in 2009

Be pleased, dear Lord, to grant me during the present year more of Your gracious presence, more tenderness of conscience and fear of offending You; more humility, stronger faith, and more entire devotedness to Your cause. Enable me to leave my temporal concerns entirely with You, to walk by faith, to have my treasure in heaven, and to manifest by my conduct that I am Your disciple. Let me not grow cold or lukewarm, but may I lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset me, and may I run with patience the race set before me, looking unto Jesus. Amen.

"Here I raise my Ebenezer." Thus far the Lord has brought me. Though the past has been a year of multiplied transgressions and backslidings, I trust, through His abundant mercy, my face is still Zionward, and that my prevailing desire is to be devoted entirely to His service. Take me, dearest Lord, and form me for Your own glory. I feel much bodily weakness. Oh, that through the crevices of this frail tabernacle, I may see some of the glories of the eternal world!

Most dear and precious Christ, I had not thought to see another new-year's day, but hoped before now to have beheld You face to face! Like him of old, who was possessed of a legion of demons, I besought that I might be with You. But for a season, You have seen good to withhold the full answer to my request. May Your will be done! Glorify Yourself in me, and be much, very much with me, until You shall say, "Arise, my love, and come away," to be with Me forever! I desire most humbly and unreservedly, in Your own strength, to yield to Your Divine disposal--all I have and am, and to continually lose my wish and will, in Yours. I would lay at Your feet all creatures and created good, with every seeming evil--and embrace Yourself, my Jesus, as my joy, portion, happiness, wisdom, strength, peace--yes, my all in all--for the coming year, or so much of it as I tarry upon earth; and then, as my joyful, blissful portion through eternity! Oh, lead me, Holy Comforter, more into Christ--and out of SELF! I have had much of blessing, but I long and pray for more; in Jesus' name. Enlarge my expectations more, I beg You--and more I shall receive. Lord, increase my faith.

Precious Christ, I come with a large request for 1842: it is that You would be the "Alpha and Omega" of it. Do You not say, "Ask what I shall give you?" Yourself, Lord! You have most blessedly given Yourself to me. But I find sweet liberty to entreat more unfolding, revealing, and opening of Your glorious person, amazing work, and matchless love, than I have yet had; and more losing and treading down of SELF, too, that I may be lost in Your fullness, and forgotten and forsaken in Your soul-absorbing glories. Oh! raise me higher, draw me nearer, that I may daily die, and You live in me more manifestly. I just give myself to You, to live on You, to live in You, to live for You, more and more than heretofore, and that by the power of the Spirit resting on me. I humbly ask that mine may be a large and still-increasing portion; that, under fresh anointings, You, most lovely Jesus, may be more fully known, more loved, more served; for it is to You the Holy Spirit leads, of You He testifies.

Oh, do make this a large, rich, full year! You being increasingly honored in me, and I increasingly lost in You, and made an increasing blessing to Your dear people. An Ebenezer for past mercies befits me; large and magnificent have been Your bestowments; bountiful and constant Your favors to me--a poor worthless nothing! "Bless the Lord, O my soul--and all that is within me, bless His holy name!"

- Ruth Bryan

Praying In Faith, Lessons Learned By John Stam

First, That it is all of grace. God does not reward us with what we need because of our faithfulness. We are unprofitable servants at the very, very best.

Second, that it is useless to get down and pray unless we have searched the Word and let it search us
(Ps. 139:23,24), even our thoughts towards others, our motives and desires. Once I had to wait three days for urgently needed help to learn this lesson.

Third, that it is not our faith we must depend on, but God's faithfulness-our faith being only the hand held out to receive His faithfulness.

Fourth, that if the answer does not seem to come, there may be something in me that causes God to delay in very faithfulness. His faithfulness causes Him not to answer me in such case. He cannot encourage His servant in a wrong attitude by answering his prayers, can He?

Fifth, that faith must be intelligently based upon the revealed will of God. Not because I have a supreme conviction that I need something or other, but because I find it in His will, I can pray with confidence.

Sixth, that I am not to expect the Lord to answer in just the way I suggest, or think best. Means and manner and everything must be left to the will of God. We keep on looking to our usual possible sources of supply, forgetting that our real source of supply is the Lord, and that He can use anyone, anywhere, with equal ease and freedom.

Taken from -- To Die is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam

This small and inspiring biography is available from us at a discounted price of $9.00, postpaid; this is a wonderful book to use as a gift or ministry book for both adults and young people. Quantities of 10 or more are $6.50 each, plus shipping.

- Mack T.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Modern Evangelism & the True Gospel

If modern evangelism is weighed in the balances of the Bible, it will be found lacking--- lacking that which is vital to genuine conversion, lacking what is essential if sinners are to be shown their need of a Savior, and lacking that which will produce transformed lives in Christ Jesus.

The evangelism of today is not only superficial, but is also radically defective. It is utterly lacking a foundation on which to base an appeal for sinners to come to Christ. There is not only a lamentable lack of proportion, with the mercy of God being made far more prominent than His holiness and His love more than His wrath, but there is a fatal omission of that which God has given for the purpose of imparting a knowledge of sin. There is not only a reprehensible introducing of humor and jokes, endeavoring to entertain people, but there is also a purposeful omission of the dark background upon which alone the gospel can effectively shine forth.

In modern evangelism, there has been a woeful ignoring of the solemn truth of the total depravity of man. There has been a complete underrating of the desperate case and condition of the sinner. Very few indeed have faced the unpalatable fact that every man is thoroughly corrupt by nature, that he is completely unaware of his own wretchedness, blind and helpless, and dead in trespasses and sins. Because such is his case and because his heart is filled with enmity against God, it follows that no man can be saved without the special and supernatural intervention of God.

The teaching of the Bible on this point is unmistakable: man's plight is such that his salvation is impossible unless God puts forth His almighty power. No stirring of the emotions by stories, no moving of the emotions through music, no speaking ability of the preacher, and no persuasive appeals are of the slightest avail. None but the Holy Spirit can make him willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3). He alone can produce godly sorrow for sin and saving faith in the gospel. He alone can make us not love ourselves first and foremost, and bring us into subjection to the Lordship of Christ.

But as serious indeed as is the above indictment, worse still is that which is being retailed by the cheap-jack evangelists of the day. The positive content of their message is nothing but a throwing of dust in the eyes of the sinner. His soul is put to sleep by the devil's opiate, ministered in a most unsuspecting form. Those who really receive the "message" which is now being given out from most of the "orthodox" pulpits and platforms today are being fatally deceived. It is a way which seems right unto a man; but unless God sovereignly intervenes by a miracle of grace, all who follow it will surely find that the end thereof is the way of death! Tens of thousands who confidently imagine that they are bound for heaven--will get a terrible disillusionment when they wake up in hell upon death.

What is the gospel? Is the gospel a message of glad tidings from heaven to make God-defying rebels at ease in their wickedness? Is it given for the purpose of assuring the pleasure-crazy young people that, providing they only "believe," there is nothing for them to fear in the future? One would certainly think so, from the way in which the gospel is presented or rather perverted, by most of today's evangelists! And the more so, when we look at the lives of their 'converts'! Surely those with any degree of spiritual discernment, must perceive that to assure such converts that God loves them and His Son died for them, and that a full pardon for all their sins (past, present and future) can be obtained by simply 'accepting Christ as their personal Savior', is but a casting of pearls before swine! Because the churches are so largely filled with such converts explains why they are so unspiritual and worldly.

- A. W. Pink